If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.—Better, If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching. The stress is upon “willeth,” which in our version reads as if it were only the auxiliary verb. It is not deed, which is the outcome of faith; but will, which precedes it, that is here spoken of. This human will to do the divine will is the condition of knowing it. The words are unlimited and far-reaching in their meaning. Those who heard them would naturally understand them, as it was intended they should, of the divine will expressed in the Law and the Prophets (John 7:19), but they include the will of God revealed, more or less clearly, to all men and in all times. Our thoughts dwell naturally on representative lives, such as those of Saul the Pharisee, Cornelius the centurion, Justin the philosopher; but the truth holds good for every honest heart in every walk of life. The “any man” of Christ’s own words excludes none from its reach, and the voice of comfort and of hope is spoken alike to all in our ignorance, fears, doubts—that he who in very deed willeth to do God’s will, shall not fail to know, now or in the life to come, of the teaching whether it be of God. (Comp. Notes on John 5:44 et seq., and John 6:29 and John 6:45.)
He shall know - He shall have evidence, in the very attempt to do the will of God, of the truth of the doctrine. This evidence is internal, and to the individual it is satisfactory and conclusive. It is of two kinds.
1. He will find that the doctrines which Jesus taught are such as commend themselves to his reason and conscience, and such as are consistent with all that we know of the perfections of God. His doctrines commend themselves to us as fitted to make us pure and happy, and of course they are such as must be from God.
2. An honest desire to obey God will lead a man to embrace the great doctrines of the Bible. He will find that his heart is depraved and inclined to evil, and he will see and feel the truth of the doctrine of depravity; he will find that he is a sinner and needs to be born again; he will learn his own weakness, and see his need of a Saviour, of an atonement, and of pardoning mercy; he will feel that he is polluted, and needs the purifying influence of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, we may learn:
1. That an honest effort to obey God is the easiest way to become acquainted with the doctrines of the Bible.
2. Those who make such an effort will not cavil at any of the doctrines of the Scriptures.
3. This is evidence of the truth of revelation which every person can apply to his own case.
4. It is such evidence as to lead to certainty. No one who has ever made an honest effort to live a pious life, and to do all the will of God, has ever had any doubt of the truth of the Saviour's doctrines, or any doubt that his religion is true and is suited to the nature of man. They only doubt the truth of religion who wish to live in sin.
5. We see the goodness of God in giving us evidence of his truth that may be within every man's reach. It does not require great learning to be a Christian, and to be convinced of the truth of the Bible. It requires an honest heart, and a willingness to obey God.
Whether it be of God - Whether it be divine.
whether … of God, or … of myself—from above or from beneath; is divine or an imposture of Mine. A principle of immense importance, showing, on the one hand, that singleness of desire to please God is the grand inlet to light on all questions vitally affecting one's eternal interests, and on the other, that the want of his, whether perceived or not, is the chief cause of infidelity amidst the light of revealed religion.
If any man (saith our Saviour) will do his will, & c.; that is, If any man hath a heart truly disposed to know and embrace whatsoever shall be revealed to him to be the will of God, how contrary soever it be to the interest of his own lusts, and ready to do it in all things, and live according to the prescript and revelation of it, having a serious purpose of heart to obey God in every thing; if he seeketh for truth seriously, and in the fear of the Lord, laying aside all wrath, malice, hatred, and any corrupt passions or affections; God will reveal the truth to him, so as he shall know the doctrine that is of God; and that I do not speak of or from myself, but by authority from my Father. Now, from hence indeed followeth, that corrupt affections, passions, and prejudices, and an ill life, may prejudice, yea, and will prejudice, men from receiving of the free grace of God, spiritual illuminations, and the gift of faith; so as men that give way to such prejudices, or nourish such passions, or live such lives, shall be left of God to their native blindness, and to strong delusions, and not discern the truth in the light that openly shineth in their faces. But from hence it will not follow, that a moral life, and a study of and seeking after truth, are the cause of faith, or effective of it, with the working of our own will.
he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself; not a man of mere natural knowledge and learning, or a man of theory and speculation, is a judge of doctrine; but he that leans not to his own understanding, and implores the assistance of the Divine Spirit, and who is for reducing doctrine into practice: he knows by the efficacy of the doctrine upon his heart, and the influence it has on his life and conversation; by its coming not in word only, but in power; and by its working effectually in him, whether it is divine or human, of God or of man.If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 7:17. The condition of knowing this is that one be willing—have it as the moral aim of his self-determination—to do the will of God. He who is wanting in this, who lacks fundamentally the moral determination of his mind towards God, and to whom, therefore, Christ’s teaching is something strange, for the recognition of which as divine there is in the ungodly bias of his will no point of contact or of sympathy; this knowledge is to him a moral impossibility. But, on the contrary, the bias towards the fulfilling of God’s will is the subjective factor necessary to the recognition of divine doctrine as such; for this doctrine produces the immediate conviction that it is certainly divine by virtue of the moral ὁμοιότης and ὁμοιοπάθεια of its nature with the man’s own nature. Comp. Aristotle, Eth. ix. 3, iii. 1 : τὸ ὅμοιον τοῦ ὁμοίου ἐφίεται. See also on John 3:21 and John 15:19. It is only in form, not in reality, that the τὴν ἀγάπην τ. θεοῦ ἔχειν ἐν ἑαυτῷ, John 5:42, differs from the θέλειν τὸ θέλημα τ. θεοῦ ποιεῖν here, for this latter is the moral praxis of the love ot God. Accordingly, we certainly have in this passage the testimonium internum, but not in the ordinary theological sense, as a thing for those who already believe, but for those who do not yet believe, and to whom the divine teaching of the Lord presents itself for the first time.
The θέλῃ is not superfluous (Wolf, Loesner, and most), but is the very nerve of the relation; note the “suavis harmonia” (Bengel) between θέλῃ and θέλημα. The θέλημα αὐτοῦ, however, must not be limited either to a definite form of the revelation of it (the O. T., Chrysostom, Euthymius Zigabenus, Bengel, Hengstenberg, Weiss, and most), or to any one particular requirement (that of faith in Christ, Augustine, Luther, Erasmus, Lampe, Ernesti, Storr, Tittmann, Weber, Opusc., and most expositors; comp. the saying of Augustine, right in itself, intellectus est merces fidei), which would contradict the fact that the axiom is stated without any limitation; it must be taken in its full breadth and comprehensiveness—“that which God wills,” whatever, how, and wherever this will may require. Even the natural moral law within (Romans 1:20 ff; Romans 2:14-15) is not excluded, though those who heard the words spoken must have referred the general statement to the revelation given to them in the law and the prophets. Finally, it is clear from John 6:44-45, John 8:47, that willingness to do God’s will must be attributed to the gift and drawing of the Father as its source.
περὶ τῆς διδ.] concerning the teaching now in question, John 7:16.
ἐγὼ ἀπʼ ἐμαυτοῦ] I of myself, thus strongly marking the opposite of ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ. Comp. John 5:30. The classical expression πότερον … ἤ occurs only here in the N. T.John 7:17. ἐάν τις … λαλῶ. “If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know concerning the teaching, whether it is of God (or from God) or I speak from myself.” As Jesus everywhere asserts (John 5:46, John 18:37), he who thirsts for God will recognise Him as God’s messenger; he who hungers for righteousness is filled in Jesus; he who is of the truth hears His voice. The teaching of Jesus is recognised as Divine by those whose purpose and desire it is to be in harmony with God.17. If any man will do his will] As in John 6:67 and John 8:44, ‘will’ is too weak; it is not the simple future, but the verb ‘to will:’ If any man willeth to do His will. The mere mechanical performance of God’s will is not enough; there must be an inclination towards Him, a wish to make our conduct agree with His will; and without this agreement Divine doctrine cannot be recognised as such. There must be a moral harmony between the teaching and the taught, and this harmony is in the first instance God’s gift (John 6:44-45), which each can accept or refuse at will. Comp. John 14:21.
he shall know] Literally, He shall come to know, recognise. See on John 7:26 and John 8:55.
whether it be of God, &c.] Literally, whether it proceeds from God (as its Fount), or I speak from Myself. Comp. John 5:30, John 15:4.John 7:17. Ἐάν τις, if any man) A most reasonable and most joyful condition. Understand therefore. The doctrine of the Father and the doctrine of the Son are one and the same. He, then, who is conformed to the will of the Father, shall know of the doctrine of the Son.—θέλῃ—θέλημα, wills—the will) A sweet harmony. The heavenly will first stirs up [awakens] the human will: then next, the latter meets the former.—θέλημα the will) known from the prophetic Scriptures.—ποιεῖν, do) A most solid method of gaining the knowledge of the truth.—γνώσεται, he shall know) he will exert himself to know; or rather, he will attain to this, that he shall know; comp. ch. John 8:12, “He that followeth Me, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life;” 28, 31, 32, “If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth;” John 12:35, “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you; for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth;” 45, John 10:14, “I know My sheep, and am known of Mine;” Matthew 7:24, “Whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock;” 1 Corinthians 8:3, “If any man love God, the same is known of Him.” To know the ways of the Lord is the privilege of those alone, who do righteousness. Isaiah 58:2, “They delight to know My ways as a nation that did righteousness.” Comp. the future middle γνώσομαι, ch. John 8:28; John 8:32, John 13:7; John 13:35, John 14:20; Revelation 2:23.—ΠΕΡῚ Τῆς ΔΙΔΑΧῆς, concerning the doctrine) The article has a relative force at John 7:16 [ἡ ἐμὴ διδαχή, the doctrine, which is Mine) ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ) from God and of God, John 7:16.
 I cannot in this place but make some reply to those remarks which the celebr. Ernesti makes in the Bibl. th. Noviss. T. II. p. 130, etc. No one truly ever denied that some knowledge of the truth is required in him whose will is to be bent to better things. For instance, in this very passage, which is at present under discussion. Christ appeals to His doctrine, which had been set before the Jews. But what, I would ask, was the cause that they were not able more fully to know and embrace it as divine? Either I, for my part, have no discrimination at all, or else their perverse will was the hindrance that prevented them from being able to progress farther in the knowledge of the Divine truth. I confess that I feel in no small degree distressed when I find that abuses are attributed to that sentiment, whereby it is believed that the knowledge of the truth is promoted by the existence of a good will [to obey it]. Cæteris paribus, the will is no doubt emended by the knowledge of the truth. But that, in its turn, a more intimate access to the truth is thrown open by the obedience of the will, both this very declaration of the Divine Saviour, and the whole of Scripture besides, openly testify. That most established axiom, that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” is superior to all the subtlety of all the learned. Nor can I think that their design is one to be laughed at, who profess that they are engaged in this or that style of writing with the view rather of bending the will (fürs Herz, for the heart) than of informing the understanding (für den Verstand, for the intellect). A greater or less degree of knowledge, to wit, being supposed, it is altogether possible to happen, nay, even it ought to be the result, that the foolish in mind should be stirred up to weigh the momentous realities of truth, of which they were not altogether ignorant before, and to overcome in faith the obstacles in the way, by that declaration, “To Him that hath it is given.” He who so lays out the first, as it were, stamina of knowledge, that he establishes it as a fixed principle with himself to obey GOD, will soon outstrip in the knowledge of the truth, so far as it conduces to salvation, many who, however extensively learned, are unwilling to give themselves up as servants to GOD. Comp. not. on John 6:69; John 10:38. Nor am I ashamed to repeat that saying of Ambrose, “Do not understand, in order that you may believe, but believe, in order that you may understand. Understanding is the reward [wages] of faith.” Moreover with these remarks it will be of use now for the reader, who reverences GOD, to compare the remarks which our illustr. Lord Chanc., D. Reuss, has briefly but spiritedly written in the Elam. Theol. Mor. c. v. § 23, etc.—E. B.Verse 17. - The moral test is then applied to the great dictum which he had just uttered. If any man willeth - not merely desires, but performs the distinct act of willing - to do his will - as his will - he shall know; i.e. his intellectual faculty will be quickened into high activity by this moral and practical effort. If the Divine will concerning conduct meets the spontaneous act of the human will, if a man's will is set to fulfil the Divine will, to will and do what is revealed to him by God, the eye of the soul will be opened to see other things as well, and especially will have power to discern the all-pervading Divine element in this teaching of mine. He shall know concerning (περί) the teaching, whether it be of (ἐκ) God, or whether I speak from myself - from the simple ground of my own independent, self-taught humanity. The first and natural application of this mighty dictum and condition was a test by which the Jews might come at once to the understanding of his more than prophetic claim to teach - he having never learned in their rabbinical schools. It amounted to this: Your moral harmony with the will of God as already revealed to you will be the sure index and confirmation of the great fact I have just referred to. You will discern the Divine in my words, the absolutely true in my teaching. Here the Lord again refers to the great principle, "He that hath heard of the Father, and learned, cometh unto me;" "He that is of the truth heareth my voice." This moral submission to God will quicken all your powers to discern and come to an invincible assent as to my claims. This is not the deep subjective testimony of the inner intuition of those that already believe, by which a verbal assent becomes a fall consent, an unchangeable conviction, or "the full assurance of faith;" but it is addressed to unbelievers, and assures those who are bewildered by the novelty and sweep of his own words that, if they are set on doing the will of God, they will become perfectly satisfied that his own teaching, such as it is, is a stream of heavenly truth bursting from the very heart of God. The text has been cited by certain writers as the sum totel of the Christian revelation, almost as though it substituted practical obedience for true thinking, as though people might well be content with holy living, and might safely leave the decision of all difficult problems of thought and revelation to shift for themselves. Nothing could be further from its real meaning, either at the time or in any of its subsequent or universal applications. The solemn utterance has a wide outlook, and is constantly establishing its own verity. A profound and voluntary desire to do the will of God is the best preparation for intuitively perceiving the Divine authority of Christ and of his religion. The desire for holiness of principle and life sees in Christ not only the loftiest ideal of perfection, but the surest satisfaction to its conscious weakness, and casts itself upon his promises of saving power. The faith which is satisfied with Christ is not merely a conclusion drawn by logical processes from satisfactory premisses, it is the consequence of a new nature or a moral regeneration. In other words, it is the more practical and expanded form of the truth first of all addressed to Nicodemus, and also lying at the heart of the Beatitudes: "Except a man be born anew [from above], he cannot see the kingdom of God." If he is born again he will see it. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." "No man can come unto me except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him." The sentence presents the truth in a hopeful and positive form, and puts the criterion of the Divine informant within the reach of practical ethics. It is an appeal to the conscience as well as to the understanding. Apart from the subjective moral element, all other evidences of the presence of the Divine in nature, in history, in Christ, will be unimpressive and unimportant. A willingness to do the will of God is not a substitute for, but a condition of, true knowledge.
This is a notable illustration of the frequent blunder of the A.V. in rendering θέλειν, to will or determine, as a mere auxiliary verb. By overlooking the distinct meaning of the verb to will, and resolving willeth to do into will do, it sacrifices the real force of the passage. Jesus says, if it be one's will to do; if his moral purpose is in sympathy with the divine will.
He shall know
Sympathy with the will of God is a condition of understanding it.
Of God (ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ)
Better, from; proceeding out of.
Of myself (ἀπ' ἐμαυτοῦ)
Of myself is misleading, being commonly understood to mean concerning myself. Rev., correctly, from myself; without union with the Father. Compare John 5:30.
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